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Arkansas State University

Best Leadership Practices for Gifted Student Program Directors

Many states have their own definition of gifted and talented students, but the National Association for Gifted Children also offers a common description for gifted learners: “Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains.” In other words, gifted and talented learners are not only strong academic performers but also students who can more readily and easily apply new concepts and ideas than their peers.

All students have different needs and tendencies to address for improved learning. That principle holds true for gifted students as well. Just because a student has attributes in one subject does not mean they will be gifted in another. One gifted student may differ greatly from others in their learning preferences, such as visual learning, reading and listening.

Educators need to be able to differentiate between practices and strategies in order to best address the diverse learning needs of gifted students. A post-graduate degree program in educational leadership and gifted students will be well equipped to apply effective strategies that encourage gifted student learning.

Lesson and Assessment Variety

Gifted learners need to have a chance to apply their knowledge and skills differently. As the education blog Edmentum explains, gifted students are all different. Some might have learning disabilities and are known as twice-exceptional students. Others might struggle with a specific subject. It’s important to support these students with a “mixture of acceleration and enrichment of the usual curriculum.” One of the best ways to do this is to offer students personal interest surveys, which can inform a teacher’s planning and allow them to personalize lesson plans and learning targets toward students’ strengths and interests.

Enrich Existing Lessons and Assessment

Many times, particularly in earlier grade levels, gifted students can speed through material and assignments without much effort. However, as Davidson Gifted points out, as they progress through school, they will inevitably run into more challenging material. If they haven’t already developed sound study habits, this could become a problem because they might not be able to manage more rigorous material. Instructors can help mitigate this by offering enriched, extended versions of assessments and materials for gifted students so that they are challenged earlier and can develop sound problem-solving and studying habits.


Flexible group learning allows teachers to mix students based on readiness, interest and skill levels, which creates a more dynamic learning environment. Students can learn from one another and complement each other’s skills and knowledge. This setting often forces gifted students to think about material in new ways if they are helping their peers. Talented students usually prefer to work alone, so collaborative learning provides a healthy setting for them to socialize as well.

Creative Questioning

Exercising critical-thinking skills is imperative for all students, but that practice can look different with gifted learners. Edmentum explains that gifted learners’ interest in topics can often go “beyond simple interest in a topic and can extend to aspects that are seemingly outside of the scope of a lesson.” Therefore, rather than insisting on a narrow focus on the lesson, teachers should encourage this tendency and facilitate these students’ desire to explore content on a deeper level.

Teacher Accountability

On a similar note, teachers need to be accommodating and accountable regarding their own lessons and teaching processes. If gifted students question an element of a lesson, teachers should not take it as a personal challenge, but rather, a consequence of students absorbing the material on a deeper level. Be open, accountable and transparent with these students, as it will help to foster mutual respect for the entire class.

With an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) in Educational Leadership, Gifted and Talented Director online program through Arkansas State University (A-State), graduates will be prepared to effectively cultivate the talents of gifted learners and create learning environments that promote optimal student success.

Learn more about A-State’s online Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Gifted and Talented Director online program.


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